All that empty, unused space.
The Revenge of the Parking Lot, by Neal Freyman (Morning Brew)
Before I wrote for the Brew, I worked in urban planning. And if I learned one thing, it was to despise parking lots like the good-for-nothing, colossal wastes of space they are.
But times are changing. In the Coronavirus Age, parking lots are winning the heart and mind of at least one jaded American for (finally) putting their asphalt to good use.
First, though, we should establish something
Parking lots are indeed good-for-nothing, colossal wastes of space. I take my cue from the parking lot’s #1 enemy, Dr. Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor who’s famous for writing a 741-page tome called The High Cost of Free Parking. In the book, Shoup rails against “parking requirements,” which are laws requiring developers to add a minimum number of off-street parking spaces to new buildings.
99% of you will not read this book, so I’ll just summarize his main points:
- When you park for free at a mall or restaurant, you aren’t really parking for “free.” Parking requirements mandated by the city of Los Angeles increased the cost of building a shopping center by 67%–93%, according to a study cited by Shoup. Those costs are passed down from retailers to you, the consumer.
- The same thing happens in housing. When residential developers are required to add a certain number of parking spots to a new housing complex, they pass those construction costs down to you, the apartment renter.
- Not to mention, parking lots increase traffic congestion, exacerbate climate change, prevent walkability, and…did I mention they’re good-for-nothing, colossal wastes of space? A 2015 study found that 14% of all incorporated land in Los Angeles County is dedicated to parking.
One of the ways COVID-19 has turned our world upside down is that park
ing lots, with their uncanny ability to accommodate social distancing, have made themselves useful …